Wednesday, April 30, 2014

War Watch April 30 , 2014 -- Iraqis vote amid looming threat of violence . Voters head to polling stations amid tight security and reports of at least four attacks outside the capital, Baghdad ....... Major Rebel Car Bombings Kill 54, Wound Over 200 in Syria Bombings Targeted Crowded Neighborhoods ....... Afghan Panel: US, UK Still Running Illegal Detention Sites on Bases Discovers 23 Detainees Held at British Bases , How the US created, and lost, Afghan war ( Asia Times ) ..... ....... DNA Test: US Ambush in Yemen Didn’t Kill al-Qaeda Bombmaker Unclear Who the Slain Actually Were , death dealing results from government assault that backfires when Al Qaeda ambushes forces......

Iraq......



Iraqis vote amid looming threat of violence

Voters head to polling stations amid tight security and reports of at least four attacks outside the capital, Baghdad.

 Last updated: 30 Apr 2014 11:43
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Baghdad, Iraq - Iraqis have begun voting in parliamentary elections that are expected to result in a period of difficult coalition-building, as violence across the country soars close to its worst levels seen in several years.
Wednesday's election is the first since US troops pulled out in December 2011 and represents the biggest test the country's often under-equipped security forces have since faced.
The streets of the capital were almost clear of vehicles on the morning of the poll, due to restrictions on civilian travel. Large groups of soldiers staffed checkpoints under a searing sun, checking identification cards and searching some of the few vehicles on the move.
2014 IRAQ ELECTION COVERAGE
The incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, voted in a central Baghdad polling station on Wednesday morning.
"We are voting for the future of our children," he said after casting his ballot.
"Terrorists were challenging us and now we challenge them. I call upon all Iraqis ... to cast their votes in a brave manner. Because that is a big blow in the face of the terrorism."
Attacks have so far been few. In the city of Ramadi, a man wearing a suicide vest tried to enter a polling station but was shot dead, police said. Five civilians and two policemen were injured in the attack.
In Mosul, 400km northwest of Baghdad, three armed men and a suicide bomber were killed as they tried to enter polling stations in two separate attacks.
A roadside bomb exploded near a polling station in the city of Kirkuk, 290km north of Baghdad, killing two women on their way to vote, police said.
At a polling station at al-Masarra school in Baghdad, Rekan Ahmad was defiant in the face of the threats.
"We already live in the worst place in the world," the 44-year-old said.
"What can scare us today?"
A hardline armed group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched a triple suicide assault on an election rally last week, killing 37 people and wounding more than 80, in an attack that underlined the difficulty of protecting the vote.
US-Iraq ties forged over eight years of war
Violence has this year risen to levels not seen since 2006 to 2007, a period when tens of thousands died in tit-for-tat sectarian bloodletting and the country almost fell into all-out civil war.
Nearly 1,700 civilians were killed in the first three months of this year, according to figures from the United Nations.
Analysts and diplomats say that 63-year-old Maliki has a good chance of being returned to power, but that he still faces a difficult fight to build a governing coalition.
Though he has no clear direct challenger for the top post, a wide mix of parties - Sunni, Shia, Kurd and secular - are lined up against his Shia Dawa group.
After the 2010 election, and after an eight-month negotiation period, Maliki formed a coalition government that was backed by Sunni and Kurdish groups.
coalition government is again a certainty, given the fractured nature of Iraq's politics and its proportional representation electoral system.
Maliki has fallen out with some cross-sectarian colleagues, meaning a new coalition would probably be more Shia-dominated than before.



Syria ......



Major Rebel Car Bombings Kill 54, Wound Over 200 in Syria

Bombings Targeted Crowded Neighborhoods

by Jason Ditz, April 29, 2014
Syrian rebels launched multiple, major car bomb attacks today in the cities of Damascus and Homs, killing at least 54 people and wounding a large number of others.
The bombing in Homs targeted a busy residential area populated by Christians and Alawites, and involved two car bombs going off 10 minutes apart. The official toll was 40 killed and 116 wounded.
In Damascus, the attack targeted a school in a Shi’ite neighborhood, killing 14 people and wounding 86. Most of the victims were reportedly children.
The attacks both took place in cities where the Assad government has mostly ousted the rebels, and suggest that instead of trying to retake lost territory the rebels are moving toward massive body counts in those cities, while focusing on territory in the north.






Afghanistan......



Sites on Bases


Discovers 23 Detainees Held at British Bases


by Jason Ditz, April 29, 2014
According to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, an investigation panel has uncovered multiple illegal detention centers being operated by the US and British militaries at their bases in Afghanistan.
The panel found the British military is still holding 23 detainees at their sites, in Kandahar and Helmand Provinces, despite a deal in place to transfer all detainees to Afghan custody.
Officially, British troops are supposed to only be allowed to detain people for up to 96 hours, then hand them over to the government. They are allowed to miss the 96 hours only under “exceptional circumstances,” and it seems the military is interpreting that as permission for open-ended detentions in some cases.
The US bases didn’t have any current detainees in any of the detention centers, but the panel ruled the US was obliged to shutter the facilities and had not done so, apparently keeping them open just in case.





and....


http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/SOU-02-300414.html


How the US created, and lost, Afghan war
By Anand Gopal

It was a typical Kabul morning. Malik Ashgar Square was already bumper-to-bumper with Corolla taxis, green police jeeps, honking minivans, and angry motorcyclists. There were boys selling phone cards and men waving wads of cash for exchange, all weaving their way around the vehicles amid exhaust fumes. At the gate of the Lycee Esteqial, one of the country's most prestigious schools, students were kicking around a soccer ball. At the Ministry of Education, a weathered old Soviet-style building opposite the school, a line of employees spilled out onto the street. I was crossing the square, heading for the ministry, when I saw the suicide attacker.

He had Scandinavian features. Dressed in blue jeans and a white t-shirt, and carrying a large backpack, he began firing 
indiscriminately at the ministry. From my vantage point, about 50 meters away, I couldn't quite see his expression, but he did not seem hurried or panicked. I took cover behind a parked taxi. It wasn't long before the traffic police had fled and the square had emptied of vehicles. 

Twenty-eight people, mostly civilians, died in attacks at the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Justice, and elsewhere across the city that day in 2009. Afterward, US authorities implicated the Haqqani Network, a shadowy outfit operating from Pakistan that had pioneered the use of multiple suicide bombers in headline-grabbing urban assaults.

Unlike other Taliban groups, the Haqqanis' approach to mayhem was worldly and sophisticated: they recruited Arabs, Pakistanis, even Europeans, and they were influenced by the latest in radical Islamist thought. Their leader, the septuagenarian warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, was something like Osama bin Laden and Al Capone rolled into one, as fiercely ideological as he was ruthlessly pragmatic.

And so, many years later, his followers are still fighting. Even with the US withdrawing the bulk of its troops this year, up to 10,000 Special Operations forces, CIA paramilitaries, and their proxies will likely stay behind to battle the Haqqanis, the Taliban, and similar outfits in a war that seemingly has no end. With such entrenched enemies, the conflict today has an air of inevitability - but it could all have gone so differently.

Though it's now difficult to imagine, by mid-2002 there was no insurgency in Afghanistan: al-Qaeda had fled the country and the Taliban had ceased to exist as a military movement. Jalaluddin Haqqani and other top Taliban figures were reaching out to the other side in an attempt to cut a deal and lay down their arms. Tens of thousands of US forces, however, had arrived on Afghan soil, post-9/11, with one objective: to wage a war on terror.

As I report in my new book, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, the US would prosecute that war even though there was no enemy to fight.

To understand how America's battle in Afghanistan went so wrong for so long, a (hidden) history lesson is in order. In those early years after 2001, driven by the idee fixe that the world was rigidly divided into terrorist and non-terrorist camps, Washington allied with Afghan warlords and strongmen. Their enemies became ours, and through faulty intelligence, their feuds became repackaged as "counter-terrorism".

The story of Jalaluddin Haqqani, who turned from America's potential ally into its greatest foe, is the paradigmatic case of how the war on terror created the very enemies it sought to eradicate.

The campaign to take out Haqqani: 2001
Jalaluddin Haqqani stands at about average height, with bushy eyebrows, an aquiline nose, a wide smile, and an expansive beard, which in its full glory swallows half his face. In his native land, the three southeastern Afghan provinces known collectively as Loya Paktia, he is something of a war hero, an anti-Soviet mujahedeen of storied bravery and near mythical endurance. (Once, after being shot, he refused painkillers because he was fasting.)

During the waning years of the Cold War, he was beloved by the Americans - Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson called him "goodness personified" - and by Osama bin Laden, too. In the 1980s, the US supplied him with funds and weapons in the battle against a Soviet-backed regime in Kabul and the Red Army, while radical Arab groups provided a steady stream of recruits to bolster his formidable Afghan force.

American officials had this history in mind when the second Afghan War began in October 2001. Hoping to convince Haqqani (who had backed the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the post-Soviet years) to defect, they spared his territory in Loya Paktia the intense bombing campaign that they had loosed on much of the rest of the country. The Taliban, for their part, placed him in charge of their entire military force, both sides sensing that his could be the swing vote in the war. Haqqani met with top Taliban figures and Osama bin Laden, only to decamp for Pakistan, where he took part in a flurry of meetings with Pakistanis and US-backed Afghans.

His representatives also began meeting American officials in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, and the United Arab Emirates, and the Americans eventually offered him a deal: surrender to detention, cooperate with the new Afghan military authorities, and after a suitable period, he would be free to go.

For Haqqani, one of Loya Paktia's most respected and popular figures, the prospect of sitting behind bars was unfathomable. Arsala Rahmani, an associate of his, who would go on to serve as a senator in the Afghan government, told me, "He wanted to have an important position in Loya Paktia, but they offered to arrest him. He couldn't believe it. Can you imagine such an insult?"

Haqqani declined the American offer, but he left the door open to future talks. The prevailing ethos in the US, though, was that you were either with us or against us. "I personally always believed that Haqqani was someone we could have worked with," a former US intelligence official told journalist Joby Warrick. "But at the time, no one was looking over the horizon, to where we might be in five years. For the policy folks, it was just 'screw these little brown people.'"

In early November, the US began bombing Loya Paktia. Two nights later, warplanes attacked Haqqani's home in the town of Gardez, near the Pakistani border. He was not present, but his brother-in-law and a family servant died in the blast. The next evening, US planes struck a religious school in the village of Mata China, one of many Haqqani had built in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which provided room, board, and education to poor children. Malem Jan, a Haqqani family friend, showed up the next morning.

"I had never seen anything like it," he said. "There were so many bodies. The roof was flattened to the ground. I saw one child who was alive under there, but no one could get him out in time." Thirty-four people, almost all children, lost their lives.

Haqqani was in his primary residence in the nearby village of Zani Khel, a dusty cluster of mud houses that had once been an anti-Soviet stronghold. "We heard the blast, and then the sound of planes in the sky," a cousin, who lived next door, told me. "We became very afraid."

Haqqani retreated to the house of Mawlawi Sirajuddin, a village chief. Not long after, the house shook violently from a direct airstrike. Haqqani was grievously wounded but managed to climb out of the rubble and escape. Sirajuddin, though, was not so lucky: his wife Fatima, three grandsons, six granddaughters, and 10 other relatives were killed.

The next morning, Haqqani sent word to his subordinates and former sub-commanders advising them to surrender. The Americans, however, had already found the local ally in Loya Paktia that they'd been looking for, a would-be warlord and supporter of the exiled Afghan king named Pacha Khan Zadran. With a thick uni-brow and handlebar mustache, PKZ (as he came to be known to the Americans) looked something like an Afghan Saddam Hussein. 

Flamboyant, illiterate, and quick-tempered, he was in many ways the opposite of Haqqani, under whom he had briefly fought during the anti-Soviet jihad. He had arrived in Loya Paktia shortly after the Taliban fled in mid-November and promptly declared himself governor of the three provinces. In no time, he had sealed his ties to the Americans by promising to deliver the man they now wanted most: Jalaluddin Haqqani.

"The last time I saw him," Malem Jan said, "he was worried and upset. He told me to save myself and leave, because Pacha Khan would not allow us to live." One early morning in late November, Haqqani slipped across the border into Pakistan. He would neverbe seen in public again. 

An attempt at reconciliation up in flames: 2001
On December 20, 2001, the American-backed Hamid Karzai was preparing for his inauguration as interim president of Afghanistan. Nearly 100 of Loya Paktia's leading tribal elders set out that afternoon in a convoy for Kabul to congratulate Karzai and declare their loyalty, a gesture that would go far in legitimizing his rule among the country's border population. From Pakistan, Haqqani sent family members, close friends, and political allies to participate in the motorcade - an olive branch to the new government.

About 30 vehicles long, the convoy drove through the desert for hours. Near sunset, it reached a hilltop and was forced to stop: PKZ and hundreds of his armed men were blocking the road. Malek Sardar, an elder from Haqqani's tribe, approached him. "He was demanding that the elders should accept him as leader of Loya Paktia," Sardar told me. "He wanted our thumb prints and signatures right then and there." Sardar promised to return after the inauguration to discuss the matter, but PKZ would not budge, so the convoy backed up and headed off to find a different route to Kabul.

On his satellite phone, Sardar called officials in the Afghan capital and at the US consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, looking for help, but he was too late. PKZ, who had the ear of key American military figures, had informed them that a "Haqqani-al Qaeda" cavalcade was making its way toward Kabul. Shortly thereafter, amid deafening explosions, cars started bursting into flames. "We could see lights in the sky, fire everywhere. People were screaming and we ran," Sardar said. 

The Americans were bombing the convoy. The attacks would continue for hours. As Sardar and others took cover in a pair of nearby villages, planes circled back and struck both locations, destroying nearly 20 homes and killing dozens of inhabitants. In all, 50 people, including many prominent tribal elders, died in the assault.

It was now late December, and in Qale Niazi, a village that had been a Haqqani stronghold in the 1980s, the bombing had frightened elders into taking control of a decades-old weapons dump. "We did not want Pacha Khan to take these weapons and use them," said elder Fazel Muhammad. "They should belong to the government of Karzai, so we guarded it until they came."

He was on his way to the village one night for a wedding party when he heard the American planes. A moment later, mud houses ahead of him exploded in a direct hit. A second bomb struck the weapons depot, setting off a series of eruptions. The night sky lit up, illuminating fleeing women and children. "Some helicopters came," Muhammad said, "and then these people were no more."

In the morning, Fazel Muhammad went looking for the house of his relatives, where the wedding party had been, but all he found there were pulverized mud bricks, twisted picture frames, deformed pots, a child's shoe, a scalp with braided hair, and severed human fingers. Later, a tribal commission set up to investigate the massacre determined that PKZ had fed the Americans "intelligence" that Qale Niazi was a Haqqani stronghold. According to a United Nations investigation, 52 people had died: 17 men, 10 women, and 25 children.

Reconciliation and flames: 2002
In six weeks, America's campaign to kill Jalaluddin Haqqani had resulted in 159 dead civilians, a flattened village, 37 destroyed homes, a fractured tribal leadership, and the ascendancy of one man, Pacha Khan Zadran, as the most important player in Loya Paktia. Meanwhile, Haqqani and his followers were in hiding in Pakistan, watching the three provinces in which they had enjoyed prestige and riches slip out of their grasp.

Life inside Pakistan proved little better. While Haqqani hid in Peshawar, his family had retreated to a suburb of Miram Shah, the capital of the tribal agency of North Waziristan. The Pakistani military was, at that point, working closely with Washington to round up al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects. In December, its troops raided the Miram Shah home, arresting his son Sirajuddin. Weeks later, they stormed the Peshawar hideout, with Haqqani barely escaping. 

In the following months, US Special Forces teams staged secret incursions into Pakistan to raid Haqqani homes and seminaries, inciting anger in the local community. "We will never allow anybody to destroy our religious institutions," said Hajji Salam Wazir, a tribal elder. "I am surprised how the Americans use the Muslims," he added. "Until yesterday, Haqqani was a hero and freedom fighter for the US, and they sent their own military experts to train him. Now he is a terrorist."

Caught between the threat of Pakistani arrest and American assassination, Haqqani decided to reach out again to the new Afghan government. In March 2002, he dispatched his brother Ibrahim Omari to Afghanistan in a bid to reconcile with Karzai. In a public ceremony attended by hundreds of tribal elders and local dignitaries, Omari pledged allegiance to the new government and issued a call for Haqqani followers to return from Pakistan and work with the authorities.

He was then appointed head of Paktia province's tribal council, an institution meant to link village elders with the Kabul government. Soon, hundreds of Haqqani's old sub-commanders, who had been hiding in fear of PKZ, came in from the cold.

Malem Jan was one of them. With long, curling eyelashes, daubs of kohl under his eyes, and polished fingernails, he had a taste for dancing, which he often performed solo to the delight of his comrades. He was also an accomplished commander, having fought under Haqqani during the early 1990s against the Communist government. In the spring of 2002, he rounded up his old fighters and soon they were working for the CIA as a paramilitary unit, providing security for American missions in search of al-Qaeda.

"It was a good time," Malem Jan recalled. "We were working closely together, sharing meals, sharing gossip." The CIA militias, of which there were a half-dozen in Loya Paktia, would soon enough grow into a 3,000-man shadow army, collectively called Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams, which operates to this day outside of the Afghan government's jurisdiction and answers only to US forces. 

Contacts between Haqqani and the CIA were rekindled, with his brother Omari acting as the intermediary. Plans were made for a meeting between Haqqani himself and Agency representatives. Key to a deal was the assurance that he would be allowed to return to Afghanistan and take part in Loya Paktia politics. The trouble was PKZ, who viewed such maneuverings with jealousy and was still angling to control the three provinces outright. "I must be allowed to take over as governor," he declared to the Austin American-Statesman. "If it's not me, it will be someone from al-Qaeda."

When Karzai appointed a new man to head Paktia province, PKZ made his move, laying siege to the governor's mansion and killing 25 people. At the same time, he convinced American militaryofficers to clamp down on the Haqqanis. One evening, as Omari was visiting the house of a government official near Kabul, US Special Operations forces showed up - without the CIA's knowledge - and arrested him. That week, similar arrests of Haqqani followers took place across Loya Paktia. 

As soon as Malem Jan realized what was happening, he fled to Pakistan, but a number of his subordinates were rounded up and dispatched to the new American prison at Bagram Air Base, a quickly expanding military command center. Swat Khan, his deputy, said that in his initial questioning he was hung by his wrists from the ceiling. Later, he was beaten. Finally, he was shipped to Guantanamo, where, a few years later, he attempted suicide. "It's all there when I close my eyes," he told me after his release. "The nightmare never leaves me."

It took the CIA months to realize that Omari was in an American lockup. When he was finally released, he looked like a different man. It was a cold autumn day, on a hilltop near the town of Khost, when hundreds of tribal elders and government officials came to receive him. There were dignitaries from villages that had been bombed and attacked by American planes and PKZ's forces, elders who had survived the disastrous convoy, farmers whose sons had been sent to Guantanamo.

"At first I couldn't even recognize him," said tribal elder Malek Sardar. "He wouldn't talk about what they had done to him. It seemed too painful to ask." Slowly, his voice quivering, Omari addressed the crowd. There was no hope in this government or the Americans, he told them. Some elders shouted insults at Karzai. Others said the Americans were no different from the Russians. Omari swore he would never set foot on Afghan soil again until it was free of "the infidels." Not long after, he left for Pakistan.

The Haqqani Network: 2004-2014
In the summer of 2004, Malem Jan was sitting with Sirajuddin Haqqani, the second son of Jalaluddin, in their Pakistani base in the North Waziristan town of Miram Shah when they heard their names on the BBC. The Americans were offering $250,000 and $200,000, respectively, as rewards for information leading to their capture. Introverted, religious, and fiercely intelligent, the younger Haqqani was rapidly taking over the reins of his ailing father's network, and he smiled at the thought of his deputy, Malem Jan, fetching a larger reward than him. "They say he who has the highest bounty on his head is the closest to God," he joked. 

The Haqqanis were now in open war against the Americans. Whereas his father had presided over Loya Paktia with popular support, Sirajuddin ruled from the shadows through fear - assassinations, kidnappings, extortion, and roadside bombings. Miram Shah had become the world capital of radical jihad, home to al-Qaeda and an assortment of Chechens, Uzbeks, and Europeans fighting under Haqqani's banner. The ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service, was now supporting the Haqqanis as way of influencing events inside Afghanistan, even as Islamabad publicly allied with Washington.

By classifying certain groups as terrorists, and then acting upon those classifications, the US had inadvertently brought about the very conditions it had set out to fight. By 2010, the Haqqani network was the deadliest wing of an increasingly violent insurgency that was claiming the lives of countless civilians, as well as American soldiers. It was hard, by then, even to recall that, back in mid-2002, US forces had been without an enemy: the remnants of al-Qaeda had fled to Pakistan, the Taliban had collapsed, and the Haqqanis were attempting to reconcile.

If Pacha Khan Zadran was able to convince his American allies otherwise, it was because of the logic of the war on terror. "Terrorism" was understood not as a set of tactics (hostage taking, assassinations, car bombings), but as something rooted in the identity of its perpetrators, like height or temperament. This meant that, once designated a "terrorist," Jalaluddin Haqqani could never shake the label, even when he attempted to reconcile.

On the other hand, when PKZ eventually broke with the Karzai government and turned his guns on the Americans, he was labeled not a terrorist but a "renegade". (He eventually fled to Pakistan, was arrested, turned over to the Afghan government, and later was elected to parliament.)

In recent years, the US has waged an intense drone campaign against the Haqqanis in their North Waziristan stronghold. Dozens of their commanders have been killed, including their top military chief, Badruddin Haqqani. Many others have been arrested. Today, the Haqqani network is a shadow of its former self. The group's influence, however, lives on. In 2012, I received a phone call from the family of Arsala Rahmani, the Afghan senator with whom I'd become friendly. That morning, a gunman had pulled up alongside Rahmani's vehicle, idling in a crowded intersection, and shot him point blank. 

Later, I learned that a former Haqqani-aligned commander named Najibullah was the culprit; he had launched his own faction, Mahaz-e-Fedayeen, whose ruthlessness made the Haqqanis look like amateurs. Now in the crosshairs of US counter-terrorism forces, his group is but the latest enemy in a war that never seems to end. 


















Yemen.......


DNA Test: US Ambush in Yemen Didn’t Kill al-Qaeda Bombmaker

Unclear Who the Slain Actually Were

by Jason Ditz, April 29, 2014
Early last week, US officials began hyping the potential killing of alleged al-Qaeda bombmaking mastermind Ibrahim al-Asiri, who they identified as having been killed in an ambush by US ground troops in Yemen.
At the time, they claimed a sniffer dog was brought in and positively identified one of the corpses as that of Asiri, but Yemen has finally gotten around to conducting an actual DNA test, and the results show it’s not Asiri.
Yemen apparently sent the DNA to Saudi Arabia, where they had the DNA on file of Ibrahim’s brother, who died in a suicide bomb attack. There was no match between the two, however.
Officials say they were unable to get a DNA confirmation of either Asiri or Nasser al-Wuhayshi from any of the scores of slain “suspects” from the US attacks, a disappointment for them. Completely ignored in this is the fact that the US killed those scores of people on the assumption Asiri was one of them, and not a single one has ever been identified.



and.......



Al-Qaeda Ambushes Yemeni Troops, 30 Killed in Fighting

Yemen DM Vows to Eradicate al-Qaeda Nationwide

by Jason Ditz, April 29, 2014
A planned “military assault” in Yemen’s Shabwa Province quickly turned into a battle,when troops were caught up in an ambush by fighters from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
What followed was a day-long battle throughout the region, with hundreds of tribal fighters coming to the side of the government to try to fend off AQAP gunmen.
In the end, 18 Yemeni soldiers and 12 AQAP gunmen were reported killed, according to provincial officials. Yemen’s Defense Ministry provided no details on its casualties, but claimed “dozens” of AQAP killed or injured.
One tribal leader reported that a number of Yemeni soldiers were also taken hostage in the fighting, and have yet to be recovered. The Yemeni DM did not mention that in their statement either, insisting only that there was “no turning back” in destroying AQAP nationwide.